Becoming an Author – Part 2: Criticism: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Worthless

One of the not so happy aspects of being a writer is that everyone who has ever read a book has advice for you. Here are some of my thoughts on the types of advice I’ve received.

The Good

UpwardGood criticism comes from someone who is knowledgeable about writing and editing. It can be about one line, one chapter or an entire book. It consists of specific suggestions that improve my writing. That means a suggestion that mentions a specific problem and a solution that would correct that problem. I’ve written what I think are some excellent chapters for my books but when someone else reads them, they realize that they don’t help move my story along. When you’re busy in your role as a wordsmith, sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. Good criticism can also come from someone who enjoys your genre, and is a potential reader of your efforts. This usually isn’t as specific but may help guide your story to your intended audience.

The Bad

TheBad_BrokenDownCarHow many times have we been told that someone has an idea for the world’s greatest piece of literature but just hasn’t gotten around to writing it?  Why do these people then give us their idea of sage advice on how to improve and what we should be writing? At least half of these people have trouble speaking in complete sentences let alone communicate a coherent thought. I smile and listen patiently to these well intentioned mental litterbugs. When I was in my career as a mathematician, I didn’t run into these types of people but now that I’m writing they seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

The Ugly

Mud Dancer Wearing a MaskAs soon as criticism becomes personal attacks, it’s time to excuse yourself and walk away. I sent a manuscript to an editor who must have been awfully angry with the world because he attacked everything short of my manhood in describing the problems with my manuscript. And I paid big money for his insults. I don’t mind negative critiques that I can learn from; but angry rants have no value.

The Worthless

When someone says my novel was cute, sweet, or nice, I find they didn’t like it but don’t want to tell me why.

~~~

TheGood_ThumbsUpThe best critique I have received from my readers:

“You write female characters better than most of the authors I have ever read.”

“It brought tears to my eyes when she lost her parents.”

“This is one book I will keep.”

Each of these indicates my success with my most important critics; my readers.

What do you find helpful in critiques? What has been your best and worst advice from readers?

Happy Writing!

Virtual Book Tour and A Real Challenge

pump up your book, richard alan, tour, book tour, blog, author

Richard Alan’s  MEANT TO BE SERIES VIRTUAL BOOK PUBLICITY TOUR will officially begin on March 5 and end on March 23 2012. Please contact Dorothy Thompson at thewriterslife(at)gmail.com if you are interested in hosting and/or reviewing his book. Thank you!

I am so excited to be part of a Virtual Book Tour.  Each day I participate in a different interview, blog, or guest blog.  There will also be giveaways.  I will try to keep you updated by twitter of the various stops I’m making during the tour.  Click on the image below for the schedule of events.

blog, blog tour, marketing, meant to be, richard alan

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

While on tour the second challenge came out from Rachel Harrie’s Fourth Writer Platform-Building Campaign.

Prompt 1: 

Two people are sitting together under the remains of a concrete bridge. Their backs are against a rusted bridge support. One person’s leg is cut. The other person has wet hair.

Prompt 2: 

(Source)

Prompt 3

(Source)

Prompt 4

(Source)

Prompt 5

(Source)

Second Campaigner Challenge

Do one or more of the following:

  1. Write a pitch/logline for a book based on the prompts (less than 100 words)
  2. Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts
  3. Write a poem with a twist using the prompts as inspiration (in less than 200 words)
  4. Write a story/poem in five sentences, each sentence based on one of the prompts
  5. Write a poem/flash fiction piece (in less than 200 words) about the water pear *without* using the words “pear”, “spoon”, or “droplet”.


Here is my entry:

Two people are sitting together under the remains of a concrete bridge. Their backs are against a rusted bridge support. One person’s leg is cut. The other person has wet hair.  Three children are in the midst of a large garbage dump.

“It’s not a bad cut,” he told his sister.  “Besides, the rain has almost stopped.  I see another garbage truck coming.  We better get out there and see if there’s something for us to eat.  I’m so hungry, my belly aches.”

On the other side of the world, my son runs along the pier chasing his ball.   He has thoughts of the cotton candy he ate at the fair yesterday.   He doesn’t worry about hunger and if anything, he could stand to lose a few pounds.

How will he react when he is kidnapped?  How will he manage to exist when he is left on a garbage dump on the other side of the world, to fend for himself?  After a life of not knowing hunger, will he have the physical and social skills to join with the other children in a desperate attempt to survive?

I welcome your critique of this piece.  Flash fiction is very new to me.  Now I can go and read other people’s entries.  There were so many wonderful flash fictions stories from the first challenge.  It was fascinating how many different themes came out of the same input.  I expect to see that here also and I’m really looking forward to it.

Until next time – Happy Reading!

Richard Alan